Last year I coined 2016 the year of the fantastic ordinary and I shared the stories of my fantastic, ordinary family members and friends who were unknowingly living beautifully inspiring lives. This year, as I look back at 2017, the majority of what I see are the figurative mountains and challenges it presented locally, nationally and globally. It’s hard to look past them. There were more brutal mass shootings, senseless police shootings, rallies of hate and cries of war. There were massive setbacks for the environment, for science, for our public education system, for women’s rights and for net neutrality – just to name a few.

I started my year’s-end post last year with this line: This could very well be my last post of 2016 and while it could go a lot of ways – most easily in the way of jubilation that 2016 is finally almost over – I’ve decided to celebrate 2016. If only I knew then what 2017 would bring and how much harder it would be to find things to celebrate. If I thought losing public idols and watching Hillary lose the election was bad, 2017 was a nightmare.

But even still, there was light.

In January of this year I stood in downtown Omaha among a sea of women, men and children totalling 12,000+. That same day, across the world, approximately 2.5 million individuals gathered in their local cities. Despite the distance between us and the differences amongst us, we marched to express our solidarity. It was magical and momentous and from it, the raging light of 2017 – though dim in comparison to the darkness – was born.

We, specifically the American women, would no longer quietly accept our reproductive fate decided behind closed doors by a group of wealthy and ill-informed white men. We, the American women, would no longer suffer in silence because it was the courteous thing to do. We, the American women, would no longer be held in place by our fear of what our male counterparts might think of us. And we, the American women, no longer had any fucks to give. It was the beginning of 2017, the year of the ordinary warriors.

This year I watched several of my female friends and family members fight for their kids’ futures, for their families’ futures, for accountability, equality and the right to define their own balance and their own success.

I watched as friends who are usually quiet, stood up and openly encouraged others to pick up the phone and call their local lawmakers. I watched as they openly and respectfully shared their knowledge and their fears. They weren’t comfortable speaking out but they did so because their kids, our kids, deserve the best. They spoke up because being comfortable wasn’t worth the risk of saying nothing and quietly watching our public education system suffer, silently watching our rights slip away. I recognized their willingness to climb the mountain rather than cower in the shadow and I admired their courage, their graceful approach and their dedication to not just their future but the future of the collective whole. I am so lucky to have these quiet and wise women to learn from, to depend on and to call my best friends.

This year I’ve had friends struggle with 2017’s motif of accountability, specifically male accountability. I had friends struggle with the concept of finally feeling empowered enough to speak out against men who’ve crossed the line, finding difficulty in defining what’s worth it and what’s not. The non-stop barrage of accusations and tales of men abusing their power and their privilege has triggered emotions and questions that, for some, are impossible to answer. Some have struggled to cover for, or turn a blind eye to, their boyish male friends, colleagues and even partners who ‘don’t know any better’. We’ve discussed over and over the roles we’ve played and the jokes we’ve dismissed simply because ‘boys will be boys’ and we’ve struggled with locating the line and uncomfortably debated what’s too much and what’s ‘acceptable’. Some have struggled to identify their place within the movement. I know these women might not sound like warriors but they’re the ones asking the important questions, trying to find the most viable middle ground upon which to grow the movement without alienating the hoards of women who can’t identify with the extremists. I am blessed to know so many intelligent, brave and thoughtful women willing to participate in the conversation.

In 2017 I watched as some of my friends fought to keep their families together, who put themselves on the back burner, put their family units first and tended to their spouses. I watched them carry the burden of someone else’s substance abuse, I watched them stand strong and remain steady in the face of recovery and I watched in disbelief as they calmly went about their daily lives as if nothing at home had changed. They were inspiringly optimistic, unwavering in their faith and still so wonderfully gracious for what they had, it was almost harder to believe than it was to watch. These ordinary warriors are inspiring reminders of a wife and a mother’s quiet strength and the immense power of real love. You never know what someone is battling at home or how close someone is to breaking, the benefit of doubt can be a powerful tool.

This year I’ve watched painfully as my friends’ bodies have betrayed them: serious illnesses and health scares, miscarriages and more miscarriages. I’ve seen friends with broken hearts share their stories to encourage others and, at times, make an attempt to help others heal while they themselves writhed with pain. I’ve stood by as friends have battled their health scares alone, quietly and optimistically, day by day. This year, if I had a dollar for everytime I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know how they do it’, I’d be a lot richer than I am now. These women are strong, independent and hopeful when they have every reason not to be. I am so in awe of their courage and so in love with their ability to inspire from some of life’s darkest places.

And lastly, this year I’ve sat by as some of my closest friends waded through the rough waters of starting over. Whether it be a new lifestyle, a new city, a new job and new faces, beginning again is never easy. For most of us, the older we get the harder it becomes but this year my friends have weathered the storm wonderfully. They’ve taken the rough patches in stride and made a point to look for the silver lining around each storm cloud. They’ve embraced the changes and dived head first into the world of possibilities. Age shouldn’t stop anyone from dreaming dreaming and it’s such a gift to have these fearfully fearless women to watch and be inspired by.

I have a lot of extraordinary women in my life leading the way, inspiring others, telling their stories, standing up and speaking out, supporting and loving those around them and I’m so very grateful to call them mine. 

Now we head into 2018. Together. I hope you all have a FANTASTIC holiday!